Dubai online eyewear retailer eyewa raises $21m in funding

Company will use the investment to branch out into offline retail and expand across Mena

Dubai online eyewear retailer eyewa raised $21 million in a second round of funding to further fuel its expansion across the region.

The latest investment takes eyewa’s total funding to date to $30m, the company said on Sunday.

Eyewa raised a $1.1m in a seed round in 2018 from a group led by EQ2 Ventures and a $7.5m in a Series A funding round in 2019 led by Wamda Capital.

"This fundraise will boost our expansion plans and will enable us to offer a better customer experience in the eyewear vertical, both online and offline," co-founder Anass Boumediene said.

“While we have focused our first few years in our home markets of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, we are now expanding beyond to the rest of Mena.”

Start-ups in the Mena region attracted a record $1 billion in funding last year, according to data platform Magnitt.

The value of the UAE's retail e-commerce market rose by 53 per cent to a record $3.9bn in 2020, largely driven by the digital shift in consumer shopping habits amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a report by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Series B funding round, which was led by Kingsway and venture capital firm Nuwa Capital, with participation from French Partners, Endeavor Catalyst, Derayah, Palm Drive and Hardy Capital, will support the company's expansion plans, its retail and omni-channel platforms and allow it to further invest in technology and product teams.

The eyewear specialist which sells sunglasses, prescription lenses and contact lenses online, is currently also exploring opportunities with brick-and-mortar shops in key locations.

"After building a truly disruptive online offering … we are very excited to embark on an omni-channel journey that will allow our customers to explore eyewa's differentiated experience in both the physical and digital world," said co-founder Mehdi Oudghiri.

This fundraise will boost our expansion plans and will enable us to offer a better customer experience in the eyewear vertical, both online and offline

Since its launch in May 2017, eyewa has operated in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain.

Besides curating eyewear and contact lenses from major brands, it has also invested in building in-house brands.

The company has designed and developed three ranges spanning different price points, including 30Sundays, Blackout and Layala.

"A big part of our thesis at Nuwa Capital is to focus on the next evolution of retail. The confluence of offline, online and private label-driven commerce is at the heart of this thesis," said Khaled Talhouni, managing partner of Nuwa Capital.

The co-founders of eyewa met while working as consultants on a project for a GCC government.

They went on to work together as co-managing directors of the online food ordering business foodpanda in the Middle East, successfully building one of the region's largest and most profitable operators that was later acquired by food delivery company Talabat's parent company Delivery Hero.